Fired for a Joke? Professor's Quip Is No Laughing Matter at the Merchant Marine Academy

Gregory F. Sullivan

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Gregory F. Sullivan could be fired over a joke he made in class about last month’s mass killings in a Colorado movie theater.

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U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Gregory F. Sullivan could be fired over a joke he made in class about last month’s mass killings in a Colorado movie theater.

The joke may have been stupid and callous. But was it a firing offense?

That is a key question underlying a controversy at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, where Gregory F. Sullivan could lose his tenured position as an assistant professor of humanities because of a joking reference to the mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater last month, in which 12 people died and 58 were injured.

While punishing a faculty member for a single ill-advised joke struck some observers as